Language Learning Strategy Use by Arabic

Language Learning Strategy Use by
Arabic Speaking Pre-service Teachers
Learning English through Content
Zohreh Eslami, PhD
Assistant Professor
Texas A&M University-Qatar
Haifa Al-Buainain , PhD
Associate Professor
Qatar University
TESOL Arabia, March 2008
Language learning strategies--Learner-initiated
 Learning strategies are a set of operations employed by the learner
for acquiring, retaining, retrieving or performing— Rigney, 1978
 Oxford (1990) said: “learning strategies are specific actions taken by
the learner to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more
self-directed, more effective, more transferable to new situations” (p.
 According to Stern (1992), “the concept of learning strategy is
dependent on the assumption that learners consciously engage in
activities to achieve certain goals and learning strategies can be
regarded as broadly conceived intentional directions and learning
techniques (p. 261).
Types of language learning strategies
 Rubin (1987) categorized language learning
strategies into three types: a) Learning
strategies, b) Communication strategies, and c)
Social strategies.
 These 3 types of strategies are further divided
into different groups of strategies. Basically the
same types of strategies are recognized by
other scholars such as Oxford, 1990, Stern,
1992,but they may somewhat be reorganized by
other scholars.
Types of language learning strategies (con’t)
 Communication strategies: used by language learners in
order to maintain the flow of an ongoing conversation.
 Social strategies: indirect learning strategies that do not
lead to the obtaining, storing, retrieving, and using of
language but can potentially lead to more opportunities
of contact with the target culture or native speakers of
the target culture.
 Affective strategies: things that language learners do
and strategies they adopt in order to lower their learning
anxiety or handle their emotional problems.
Past studies of language learner strategy use
 One important goal for examining language learning strategy use in past
studies is to understand the cognitive, social, and affective processes
involved in language learning in order to help the less successful language
learners overcome learning difficulties (Chamot, 2001).
 The Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) developed
by Oxford (1990) is widely used in the literature as a major
instrument. Based on SILL, a 50-item (50 strategies) self-report
questionnaire, language learning strategies are grouped into six
categories: memory, cognitive, compensation, metacognitive,
affective, and social strategies.
Past studies of language learner strategy use (Con’t)
 Research has clearly shown that all language learners
use some kind of learning strategies, but depending on
such factors as age, gender, and cultural origin learners
differs in the type of strategies used and the frequency of
use (Chamot & Kupper, 1989).
 Using SILL, studies that examined the use of language
learning strategies among Asian students, for example,
have found that compensation strategies were the most
commonly used strategies by Chinese ELLs while
memory strategies were the least used ones (Bedell &
Oxford, 1996; Goh& Foong, 1997, Rong, 1999).
 Politzer and McGroarty (1985), on the other hand,
compared Asian students with Hispanic students and
found that Asian students tended to use fewer of the
strategies associated with good language learners than
did Hispanic students.
Past studies of language learner strategy use (Con’t)
 Oxford and Nyikos (1989) studied 1200 university students and found that
females used language learning strategies more than their male
 Green and Oxford (1995) found that the more proficient students adopted
significantly more language learning strategies in the cognitive,
compensation, metacognitive, and social categories.
Ku (1997) arrived at similar conclusions in her study with 335 college
students in Taiwan using SILL: the more proficient students in her study
reported using learning strategies more often than the less proficient ones.
 Peacock (2001) found that students majoring in Physics used far
less cognitive strategies than the math and engineering students,
while math students used fewer metacognitive strategies
 Our Study????
Research Questions
1. What types of language learning strategies
are most frequently used by Arabic speaking
pre-service teachers learning English through
content areas?
2. Does the level of English language
proficiency affect the students’ choice of
language strategy and the frequency of use?
The study
 Participants:27 female Arab students enrolled in the Texas A&M
and Qatar University PEPP (Primary Educator Preparation
Program)teacher education program.
 The students were taking courses in the Texas
A&M and Qatar University teacher education
program. All the participants had a bachelor’s
degree and were going through and intensive one
year teacher education program. The medium of
instruction for all courses was English.
Research Instruments
Research Instrument:
• Background questionnaire (including the self-reported language
proficiency scale)
• the Strategy Inventory of Language Learning (SILL) by Oxford
• SILL contains 50 self-report question items regarding language
learners’ frequency of language learning strategy use. For each of
the questions, the participants are asked to respond on a five-point
Likert scale ranging from 1 (never of almost never true of me) to 5
(always or almost true of me)
 The SILL is composed of two main groups of three strategies
each as shown in the following:
 Direct Strategies: memory strategies, Cognitive strategies, and
Compensation strategies
 Indirect Strategies: Metacognitive strategies, Affective strategies, Social
 Students reported using metacognitive strategies more frequently
(M= 4.19) than five other types of English learning strategies. (table 1 and
 Cognitive and social strategies tied in the second place (M= 3.81),
followed by memory strategies (M= 3.62), compensation strategies (M=
3.76), and affective strategies (M= 3.23).
 Students’ level of English proficiency is found to be correlated with two
compensation strategies, two metacognitive strategies, and one affective
 Students with higher levels of English proficiency, for example, reported
that, they would use gestures when they cannot think of a word during
conversation in English (C 25) and would use a word or phrase that has
equivalent meaning as an English word that they cannot think of (C 29).
Results (Con’t)
 Students with higher levels of proficiency were also found to be more likely
to notice their English mistakes and use that information to help them do
better (D 31) and would try to find out how to be a better learner of English
 Students with higher levels of English proficiency were less inclined to talk
to someone else about how they feel when they are learning English.
 As discussed earlier, students’ level of English proficiency is found to be
correlated with two compensation strategies, two metacognitive strategies,
and one affective strategy. The result is in line with Klassen (1994) and
Yang’s (1994) research results. These two studies, looking at students from
Taiwan and China, also reported compensation strategies as being the most
frequently used strategies.
 Our results have shown that students with higher levels of English
proficiency tend to use more compensation and metacognitive
strategies and therefore are more strategic about their language
learning. The results have unique significance because language
proficiency and its improvement has been cited as the most
important area in feeling of self efficacy among NNESTs (nonnative
English speaking teachers).
 As Bremner (1999) suggests that the frequent use of compensation
strategies might be due to the learning process. However, this situation may
possibly result from that lower proficiency learners may not have sufficient
confidence or enough language knowledge to make informed guesses.
Thus, compensation strategies might be more readily available to learners
with higher levels of proficiency.
 Affective and memory strategies were not used widely as reported by our
participants. This result is similar with the results in Hong-Nam and Leavell’s
(2006) study. In their study, they found that the least favored strategies by
participants were affective strategies and memory strategies. These
participants indicated that although they attempted to relax when they were
uncertain about speaking English, their fears of making a mistake often kept
them from trying. In more group oriented societies with a lot of emphasis
one face and outside appearance, the affective factors may become more
of a challenge for students. They may fear loosing ‘face’ and therefore do
not use any affective strategies, and not use risk taking.
 Memory strategies were the least frequently used strategies. Such
reflection shows that learners are able to move beyond the basic
levels of memorization of vocabulary and grammar (Hong-Nam &
Leavell, 2006). It is hoped that as learners engage in more active
management of their language learning strategy choices, they use
less memory strategies.
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